Dodged a bullet

meangooseFebruary 26, 2013

I had a contractor I found on Angies List come out to give me a bid on my kitchen remodel this weekend. After I got the bid, I sat down to finish my due diligence on this guy....

Red flag one: Googled him and found a cease and desist order with accompanying fine from the state. No details listed online so I had to wait until I had time during business hours to call.

Red flag two: I looked more thoroughly at his website, when I realized that I recognized one of the kitchens on it. It was Morton5's kitchen! Keep in mind that I am in MN, and Morton5 is not.

Called the state this morning. Apparently he was fined for lying about his license, and fraud. They asked me to forward the bid and the website address to them.

Needless to say....I'm still looking for a contractor!

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That would be funny if it weren't so awful. How does Angie's list work anyway, if "recommended" contractors like that end up on the list?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 4:33PM
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I have read several posts lately about contractors like this found on Angies List. I cant believe its a paid service.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 4:37PM
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While our GC is listed on Angie's list, we found him by calling out local planning department and asking who they would recommend - they see all sorts of contractors and figured they could direct me to someone good. Not sure if that would work in your area but might be worth the call.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 4:42PM
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Sherrie Moore

Angie's List can be a great service. I am a member and have found many reputable service people. But I always look at all the reviews and then interview at least three. You can't pay to be on Angie's List. Someone has to write and submit a review of your business. But sometimes even a bad contractor can give good service to some clients.

I also like how if I have a complaint about a company that is on the list. I can write complain and Angie's List will investigate and publish the results of their findings and your complaints on Angie's List.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 4:52PM
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Where are you meangoose? If you're in the TC area, I can give you a couple of names.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 5:55PM
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I am a member of Angie's list (I think) but I take it with a grain of salt. For example, they keep asking me to rate a particular doctor. Well, I cannot write a positive review b/c the doctor has proven incompetent but I cannot write a negative one either as the place where we live right now is relatively small and the Doc would know right away who wrote it, if I list the facts. Catch 22.

I know another one who is just a complete crook but I keep my mouth shut for the same reason. Yes, I am admitting to being a coward but this is a "small town" and I have too many battles to fight at the moment. Plus, I worry about my DD's social life more than reporting a couple of bad doctors, if ykwim.

I know that I'll speak up one day but till then...

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:41PM
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I tried Angie's list for about an hour before I called their customer rep and asked for my money back. It was useless for me because I live in a small city and there were virtually no reviews on the contractors in my areas. Those that have reviews only have one or two reviews, too few to be accurate or unbiased.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:51PM
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Can someone explain how Angie's list works? Couldn't a contractor just have people submit reviews on his behalf?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 6:59PM
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Yes, they can - like any online reviews.

That is why I pay attention to Amazon ratings only if the item has enough reviews. You can click on the reviewer and see what and how they reviewed, so that gives me some idea.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:15PM
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Sherrie Moore

Yes if you are an Angie's list member you can write reviews for a contractor who asks you. I don't unless I really like them... or really dislike their service. As a customer of Angie's list... I read all the reviews and know I need to look for a balance. I don't believe the contractor is bad based on one bad review. And visa versa!

I also know I have to check them out beyond that. However I will say as a several year member. The best contracters and service people I have found has been with the help of Angie's list.

As such I try really hard to give honest and accurate reviews of the companies I use and have used.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:09PM
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I agree but it depends on the area.

I joined b/c I was looking for reviews of someone in particular and I found the name when I searched Angie's List for it. However, it turned out to be completely bogus as they had the name without a single review.

I *hate* when people do that.

As you just said, people write reviews only if they really like the product OR are really unhappy about it - and have the guts & time & willingness to share.

FWIW, I trust Amazon reviews more than Angie's List.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:15PM
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Like cksquared, I can give you some reliable GC's in Twin Cities.

Angie's List is as flawed as any of the other online ratings for services, restaurants, whatever. I would be nervous to slam someone who had given bad service--retaliation? Who knows. Just gives me the creeps that they would know who I am. I did find a good dry cleaner to press washed bedsheets, though....

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:25PM
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I'd love to get your recommendations on GC's shanghaimom and cksquared. I seriously would be grateful!

I am planning on using Ikea materials if it makes a difference. (And yes, I know that I could put together the cabinets myself....but my trim carpentry would be um....poor is the nicest way to say it.)

I will be posting about this experience on his Angies List listing and sending a letter of complaint, but I want to wait a few days for the state to have time to at least begin whatever they're going to begin. The lady I spoke with opened a file on him while we were on the phone! She sounded very annoyed (with him, not me!)

Angie's List has been a good place for me to start for several small projects, but obviously, it is not sufficient by itself.

I almost spit out my drink on my laptop when I saw Morton5's kitchen! I drooled over that kitchen for months so the second the image popped up I was like "WTH?!?!"

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:57PM
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So who pays for Angie's list? The contractor or the customer? And you have to be a paying member of Angie's list to give a review, is that correct? So you'd only be getting the recommendations of other paying Angie's list customers?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:41PM
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The customers pay. IIRC it was $20 for a yearly subscription.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:45PM
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I emailed you, Mean.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:58PM
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Thank you shanghaimom!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 10:39PM
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You definitely dodged a bullet!

Angie's List has been a great tool for me. I've found several great companies through them. But I always check the contractor's licensing board and the BBB before I even call them. Shocking how many contractor's are working with expired or revoked licenses. Before I hired the contractor who did my kitchen, I talked to two other people has had used them within the past year to do their own kitchens and was able to go to one of their homes and see their work for myself.

Online reviews are great tools but you need to take them with a gain of salt. I love that Amazon started including the "verified buyer" tag on their reviews so you know who really bought the product. My husband makes video games for a living and it is common practice for everyone in the company to jump on Amazon and write glowing reviews for their product as soon as it has shipped. It is pretty common practice in the industry and I doubt very much that theirs is the only one that does it.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:44PM
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Not long ago I saw a contractor's ad that had a 15% off coupon. In the small print was that you had to write a positive review on Angie's List to get the discount. In my area the fee to join is $30/year, so I have never signed up.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 12:41AM
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I joined Angie's List for the year of my remodel. I'm in a medium sized metro area. I did use it to find reviews on some people, although it was just one factor in the decision process. I did post glowing reviews for two of my vendors and a detailed less glowing review of a third. I tried to put a lot of info in the review so people could judge for themselves.

But it's virtually impossible to ensure that Angie's List is not abused. Any reviews on any site can be suspect.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:51AM
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Let me ask again, can only paying customers of Angie's List make reviews?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:58AM
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I looked into Angie's List several years ago just because I'd been reading about it online and was curious. It didn't take long to run into their explanation to service providers on how to raise their ratings, some of which had to do with their paying money to AL and none of which had to do with actual service provided. I stopped right there.

Last year we wanted a particular bamboo floor. We used a Google search to find dealers in our area. There were only two. Both were on the Yelp reviews, which we hadn't gone looking for, but there they were. Each dealer had about five reviews, one all negative and one all positive - really positive. We went there first, bought the flooring, and couldn't have been more pleased. We went back about 9 months later for more. They didn't carry it any more (it was being produced under a different name from a company they didn't have a relationship with), but they helped us figure out what was going on, gave us some numbers, and were good with us hiring their installer independently. They even ordered samples of the new name product for us to verify that it was actually the same as what we'd bought before. Yelp costs us nothing.

Here is a link that might be useful: the Yelp reviews

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 10:24AM
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Sent you an email.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 10:32AM
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jellytoast: Yes, that is correct. Only members of Angie's List (which you must pay to join) may post reviews.

PS No relation!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 1:16PM
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Thank you ck!

I don't really think this is so much a problem with Angie's List. AL is upfront that the license and insurance info is self-reported by the contractor. Like any review site, those with the determination to game the system can probably find a way to accomplish that end, so AL can't serve as a substitute for due diligence on the part of the homeowner.

I was just shocked to see a GWer's kitchen so fraudulently displayed on this guy's website, and surprised that he'd keep up his bad practices after already being busted once by the state.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 12:54AM
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I have been using Angie's List for 9 years. It's been working for me. I pay $40 a year. I tried Service Magic and the 3 contractors they gave me all had bad reviews on AL.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 4:38PM
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Like Ginny20, I joined this year in prep for our remodel. What I think I have learned is:

Only paying members can write reviews. If you drop your membership, any reviews you've written lose some of their clout, and dropped down the list. If you just got a quote but did not go further, you can write a blurb giving your overall impression re their professionalism or charges, but it will be weighted less.

A contractor cannot pay to be on AL. However, once a review is written for him, AL will start contacting him and asking him to pay to have his review bumped to the top of the list. I did this to my painter, and he did not thank me. He says they are aggravating the devil out of him. Same for my carpenter. They have all the work they can handle, and are not interested in AL. I need to try to find a way to undo my well-intentioned act.

All this said, I have used AL a lot. If you scan the list carefully, and don't just look at the top five names, it can prove helpful. Like all review sites, some posters are just vindictive and some are shills. I am uncertain as to whether or not I will renew when my membership expires.

Hope this will help someone.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 4:59PM
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